Although Nintendo Switch is more powerful than users expect from handheld consoles, 2D games are still one of the top titles. They aren’t what most people predict, despite the characters only moving in two dimensions. There are several genres nowadays, such as top-down (isometric), side-scrolling, action and speedrun platformers, turn-based RPGs, metroidvanias, rougelites, and story-focused adventures. We certainly can’t showcase the leaders in each category. However, we’ll try our best to diversify our selection. With that said, let’s dive straight into our list of the best 2D games for Nintendo Switch.
1. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
Although released back in January 2019, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe still feels fresh and like one of the top 2D games for Nintendo Switch. It combines single-player and multiplayer (up to 4 players, one Joy-Con per player) to bring a side-scrolling two-dimensional quest to save the Mushroom Kingdom. The game includes New Super Luigi U and Toadette and Nabbit besides Luigi and Mario as playable characters. You get 164 great-looking platforming challenges and three extra game modes, Coin Battle, Challenges, and Boost Rush. Young gamers can also join since they can get free Hints and a built-in video guide gallery.
2. Super Mario Maker 2
We couldn’t decide which of the two was the leading overall Nintendo Switch 2D game, so we had to mention Super Mario Maker 2. This platformer game has 100 levels in the Story Mode. However, the distinguishing part is that players can design levels and come up with rules. That means there’s a limitless amount of user-generated content on top of the outstanding default one. Plus, the game provides intuitive instructions, meaning you can effortlessly design your games. The only downside is that multiplayer is somewhat troublesome, unlike the one above.
It still takes us a bit of time to remember that a Microsoft game, formerly an Xbox exclusive, has a Nintendo Switch port. Yet, that’s the reality. You can play this 2D run-and-gun arcade game for Xbox in 60 FPS, and it shortly starts to feel natural with the amount of shooting and jumping. In case you haven’t heard, it has hand-drawn graphics that emulate cartoon animations from the 1930s. Your goal is to progress through levels and notice and remember patterns in obstacles and enemies. The game is brutally difficult, and you’ll die on normal opponents and bosses. Don’t give up, trust us!
4. Metroid Dread
After a October 2021 release, this single-player 2D action-adventure side-scrolling leader among Nintendo Switch games in 2D took the world by storm. You play a bounty hunter, Samus Aran, who traverses the galaxy after noticing a puzzling transmission from a far planet, Planet ZDR. She then has to fight the enemies that trapped her there, and escape aliens and robots (remember the name E.M.M.I—you’ll dislike it). There’s shooting, running, parkour, puzzles, and more. Also, Rookie Mode for newcomers, Hard Mode for advanced players, and Dread Mode for masochists, so everyone is happy.
Celeste is a hand-crafted one-player story-driven adventure that follows Madeline’s journey to the peak of Celeste Mountain. It’s a classic 2D platformer title, filled to the brim with dangerous monsters, puzzles, and challenges, which adds up to over 700 screens. Respawning is quick and controls are simple, so you won’t waste much time on your attempts. Also, the game’s audio track went to the finals of the IGF “Excellence in Audio” award. Skilled players can remove the protection on C-side and B-side chapters. We have to warn you that the storyline gets sad and that it’s not replayable like the first two titles.
6. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Nintendo fans don’t need an introduction to Donkey Kong games. Although there are way too many 3D examples, when it comes to picking the top 2D one, we settled on Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The Wii U port debuted in May 2018 and this action platformer is suitable for one to two players, in TV, handheld, and tabletop mode. The game is as good as you remember it, with 16-bit graphics, challenging levels, awesome music, and difficulty suitable for rookies. The additions are one extra character next to Funky Kong and Funky Mode game mode.
Although Hades doesn’t look like it fits in, its art style is what makes it unique. It uses 3D characters, but the environment and animations are hand-drawn and 2D. As for the story, you’re Hades, Prince of the Underworld, and must fight through levels to escape the Underworld. You’ll pick up legendary weapons of Olympus on the way, and get permanent upgrades, so you don’t start from scratch when you die. You also meet well-known goods such as Poseidon, Athena, and Zeus, who will help you with Boons or special abilities.
8. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove follows the eponymous character on a quest to save his beloved with his Shovel Blade. Your enemies in this 8-bit adventure are the menacing Order of No Quarter group and its leader, The Enchantress. You can play solo or with up to 3 friends in co-op, and choose a male or a female character. This edition has 4 extra games (Shovel of Hope, Plague of Shadows, King of Cards, and Specter of Torment). It also features 50 difficult challenge levels in Challenge Mode.
9. Dead Cells
Dead Cells was also on our list of the best 2D games for Android, so not much has changed with its Nintendo Switch port. It is an indie, fast-action, roguelite/metroidvania game that has you control cells that overtake a dead prisoner’s body. Your goal is to fight your way out of a prison castle, first with a beginner weapon, then by killing monsters, looting items, and earning Cells, an in-game currency. The “problem” is that dying makes you lose almost all progress. Luckily, you can lock some items so that upgrades last through death. Levels generate procedurally, and each playthrough can last between a few minutes and an hour.
10. Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is another game from Microsoft (alongside Cuphead) that came to Nintendo Switch. It’s also a metroidvania title, although some say it should be classed as a nonlinear 2D platformer. The story is gloomy, but there are no loading screens, and teleports help you save time as you explore the world finding locked parts and the abilities required to unlock them. It has incredible details and graphics, and you can play the Ori and the Will of the Wisp sequel afterward.